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Currents, Constellations — ‘acerbic tones of the avant garde’

Currents, Constellations — ‘acerbic tones of the avant garde’

April 14
21:01 2018

The Nels Cline 4

Currents, Constellations

(Blue Note)

The clean lines and finely wrought textures that guitarists Nels Cline and Julian Lage interweave on this unusually configured CD range from fluent modernism to the squeaks of left-field jazz. And, impressively, every detail and nuance is captured without clutter.

Cline and Lage have been working as a duo since releasing Room in 2014, and have developed a mutual accord that is beyond the merely empathetic. Here their common cause gains extra edge from the support of Scott Colley’s purposive double bass and the rumble and splat of Tom Rainey’s drumming. And it works brilliantly.

The material reflects the multiple projects that leader Cline has on the go. Cline’s last album, Lovers, delivered pure-toned lyricism set in big-band jazz. But for the most part, Cline leans towards the acerbic tones of the avant garde. And he’s best known for the stadium-rock heft he brings to the rock band Wilco. This album brings these strands together, often on the same track.

It opens with the sustained guitar discord of “Furtive”. The track belies its title with a rampage of Rainey drums, vigorous Colley walking bass and a mesh of dense harmonies and spiralling lines. “Swing Ghost ’59” follows, juxtaposing classic swing with the even accents of rock. The unison riffs and bendy melodies of “Imperfect 10” come next. The piece was originally titled “Jazz Fusion Composition”, with accuracy. And later in the album, “Amenette” holds together a string of duos, trios and unaccompanied breaks with a recurring boppish theme.

Not all the tracks twist and turn. “As Close as That”, a ballad feature for Cline, and Carla Bley’s “Temporarily”, a delicate weave of interlocking guitars, are delivered cleanly over soft brushes and warm counterpoint bass. And the elegiac “For Each a Flower” closes the album with delicate strums and a hiss of cymbals.

But whether gently strumming, crunching out dissonance or spinning pure-toned modern jazz, the two leads remain impressively fine-tuned to each other’s train of thought.


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